STA, 12 June 2020 - The Agency for the Environment has issued a permit for the culling of 115 brown bears until September this year across multiple parts of Slovenia that are home to a large brown bear population.
Culling has long been the main way in which the Slovenian brown bear population has been kept in check and the Environment Agency said on Friday there was "no other satisfactory possibility" and that the cull "does not harm the preservation of the favourable state of the population".
The cull will be undertaken to mitigate human-bear conflicts in areas where the density of the bear population is high. According to the agency's data, in some parts of south Slovenia densities can be as high as one animal per two square kilometres, among the highest in the world.
Human-bear conflicts have been on the rise in recent years, in particular in areas with a high density of bears and in the vicinity of human settlements. Without intervention, conflicts would only increase.
The latest estimates, for 2020, put Slovenia's brown bear population, which is a part of a large Dinaric population that stretches across Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, at 860-1,120 animals, the agency said.
Brown bear culling has long been a controversial measure and environmentalists have been fighting it in court year after year.
But the scientific consensus is that the population is thriving and must be controlled so as to prevent conflicts from escalating, which may ultimately undermine public acceptance of the very existence of a population of large carnivores in the country.
STA, 7 May 2020 - A 56-year-old man strolling in the woods near Škofljica, just south of Ljubljana, stumbled upon a bear, who attacked him, media have reported. The man reportedly surprised the animal and used his hands and a walking stick to defend himself, the Forests Institute told the STA. Police say the man's injuries are not life-threatening.
The man was strolling in the woods between the villages of Klada and Želimlje on Tuesday evening when he stumbled upon the bear.
According to the Forests Institute, the man did nothing to provoke the attack but he obviously came too close to the animal.
The 56-year-old returned home in shock and with multiple wounds on the upper part of his body. His family immediately took him to the hospital, where it was determined that he had only sustained light injuries and had no bite wounds.
The site of the incident was thoroughly checked and is still being monitored by the local hunting association. Police too are investigating the incident.
If the bear continues to come close to humans, showing no fear, the association said it would ask the Environment Agency for permission to shoot the animal.
A bear attack happened in the same area last June. Back then an 80-year old woman was the victim of a female bear, which was not killed after the incident.
On average, two bear attacks on humans are recorded in Slovenia every year. People do not encounter the beast frequently, as bears usually avoid contact with humans.
Encounters are the most frequent in the spring, when bears emerge from their dens after winter sleep and more people are out in the woods, as well as in the summer and autumn when people pick forest fruit and mushrooms.
Bears usually cause light injuries to humans, such as scratches and bites. Fatal injuries are rare. In Slovenia, three such cases have been recorded so far, the last one in 1987.
STA, 20 April 2020 - The Constitutional Court has repealed an emergency law ordering the culling of brown bear and wolf populations which was to remain valid until late September. Even though the cull determined by the law has already been carried out, the decision may prevent the adoption of emerging amendments that would increase the cull quota for this year.
The court has ruled that the law is in violation of Article 3 of the Constitution, which refers to the separation of powers between the three branches of government. Based on that, it did not rule on the substance of the law, said Alpe Adria Green, an environmental NGO.
The law gave permission to hunters to cull 175 bears and 11 wolves. Most of the animals have already been culled, but the NGO says the ruling would probably put a stop to an amendment to the act currently under discussion which would enforce additional culling.
A constitutional review of the bill was sought by the Legal-Informational Centre for NGOs and the Association for the Preservation of Slovenian Natural Heritage in July. The court agreed at the time that any culling should be regulated by the nature conservation act and the decree on protected wild animal species, while the culling should be ordered by the government.
After the Administrative Court annulled a number of such government decrees, parliament passed a law directly mandating the cull, a move that the Constitutional Court sees as violation of the principle of the separation of powers.
Since the legislation was to expire at the end of September, efforts to amend the act have begun. The changes, which were proposed by the National Council in February and enjoy support from the government, would expand the annual cull: 220 bears were to be killed between 1 May and 30 April 2021 and 30 wolves from May to late January 2021.
More than 30 environmental NGOs have protested against the proposal, addressing a letter to the EU Commission representation office and European Parliament office in Slovenia and urging the authorities to immediately impose a moratorium on carnivore culling in the country.
Slovenia has a thriving brown bear population that was estimated at 750-975 animals at the end of 2018 under a study conducted in the framework of the international project LIFE. Culling is a widely accepted management practice supported by researchers, but in recent years the public pressure to control the population has increased due to a growing number of human-bear conflicts.
The wolf population, meanwhile, is estimated at around 80 animals, according to a study commissioned by the Agriculture Ministry. Damage by wolves, in particular to livestock, has been increasing in recent years, but experts say culling must be very precise in order not to disturb the hierarchy of wolf packs, which may actually cause greater damage if packs are unstable.
STA, 26 February 2020 - With spring approaching, farmers in areas that have seen an influx in bear and wolf attacks in the recent years worry that letting their animals out to pasture would prove fatal despite the emergency measures taken last year to decrease the population of large carnivores in Slovenia.
Between July 2019 and the end of January, the bear population has been reduced by 172 and the wolf population by 11, nearly on target with an emergency law passed last year. Specially authorised hunters shot 161 bears and four wolves, the rest died due to other reasons.
Nonetheless, 22 attacks on sheep, cattle and horses have been reported this year so far, the Environment Ministry told the STA.
No additional culling measures are planned at this point, and large carnivores can only be shot if they pose significant threat to humans and property, and under strict rules.
What is more, the Environment Ministry must draft a new quota reasoning for bears after an environmental NGO successfully challenged the previous one in administrative court in April 2019.
The ministry told the STA that the reasoning would be based on proving that the number of conflicts continued to increase despite measures addressing cohabitation issues.
The reasoning will also have to submit scientific proof that the planned cull quota will ensure an appropriate decrease in population to lower or stop the increase in conflicts.
Last year, bears attacked 461 times and wolves 327 times. Expert estimates suggested that some 1,000 bears lived in Slovenia last year and about 80 wolves.
Now, farmers in the woody Kočevje area are worried that they will face the same problems as last year once they let their animals out to pasture this spring.
"We are afraid that wolves will kill [our sheep] and we will lose everything. Many farmers have heard wolves gathering around sheep pens already," the civil initiative Aktivna Kočevska has said in a letter addressed to Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec.
They demand that the population of large carnivores be reduced to "numbers acceptable to the environment", which they believe was last the case in 1999 and 2000.
First step to this end may be made today, as the upper chamber of parliament, the National Council, discusses another emergency bill for the culling of large carnivores drafted by one of the national councillors.
STA, 22 January 2020 - Slovenia has sought to convince the European Commission to loosen rules on the protection of large carnivores when populations of the animals are booming, but EU officials appear to have poured cold water on the idea at a meeting at the Environment Ministry this week.
The Brussels officials said the key goal of European policies was cohabitation with large carnivores, which means prioritising protective measures and paying out compensation in the event of livestock loss.
"The extreme measure in the event protective measures are not working is culling, provided ... that the favourable state of the population is being maintained and does not worsen," the ministry said in a press release on Wednesday.
It is the job of the state to strengthen communication and awareness raising, especially in the countryside and in areas where populations of large carnivores are growing, the EU officials were quoted as saying.
The statement came a day after the ministry organised a meeting on Tuesday featuring EU officials and the members of a national task force for the management of brown bear, wolf and lynx.
The populations of brown bear and wolf have been expanding in Slovenia in recent years, leading to push-back from locals living in affected areas and demands that culling, the principal management measure used in Slovenia, be intensified.
In 2019 just over 170 bears were culled out of a rapidly rising population that is estimated to number just under 1,000 animals, and five of the estimated 88 wolves on Slovenian territory.
But despite the extensive culling, Slovenia had sought additional loosening of EU-wide rules on protected species to make it even easier to control the population.
Environment Minister Simon Zajc thus called for a more flexible approach at an EU ministerial in December, with the argument that the specifics of each country ought to be taken into account.
The EU officials have now said that no such change is currently planned. Procedures may be initiated assuming such motions are backed by hard science, but the procedure is exceptionally long, the Environment Ministry said in a release after the meeting.
All our stories on bears in Slovenia are here
Časoris is an online newspaper aimed at children. Each week we’ll take an article and post it here as a Slovene-English dual text.
Zakaj so medvedi po prespani zimi še vedno fit?
Why are bears still fit after a sleepy winter?
Written by Urša Adamič, translated by JL Flanner & G Translate
Predstavljajte si, da bi celo zimo prespali.
Imagine sleeping all winter long.
Mišice bi izgubile svojo moč, na koži bi se pojavile odrgnine in verjetno bi bili sestradani. No, grizliji s tem nimajo težav.
[Your] muscles would lose their strength, there would be bruises on the skin and you’d probably be starving. Well, grizzlies have no problem with all that.
Grizli je podvrsta rjavega medveda, ki živi v Severni Ameriki. V nedavno objavljeni raziskavi so znanstveniki razkrili, kaj grizlijem pomaga, da ohranijo mišice tudi po prespani zimi.
Grizzlies are a subspecies of brown bear living in North America. In a recent study, scientists revealed what helps grizzlies retain their muscles after a sleepy winter.
V času zimskega spanja oziroma hibernacije medvedi izgubijo skoraj tretjino telesne mase.
During the winter sleep, or hibernation, bears lose almost a third of their body weight.
Zaradi upočasnjenega dihanja in srčnega utripa se upočasnita tudi prebava in nastajanje urina. Med zimskim spanjem medvedi kar nekaj mesecev ne izločajo urina in blata, zato pa se v njihovem telesu kopiči dušik.
Due to slow breathing and heart rate, digestion and urine production are also slowed down. During the winter sleep, bears do not excrete urine and faeces for several months, which is why nitrogen builds up in their bodies.
Dušik je ključna sestavina aminokislin, iz katerih so zgrajeni proteini, iz njih pa so sestavljene mišice.
Nitrogen is a key component of the amino acids that proteins are made of, which muscle is made of.
Znanstveniki so ugotovili, da medvedi med zimskim spanjem dušika ne izločijo iz telesa z urinom, pač pa se ta vgradi nazaj v mišice in tako prepreči njihovo razgradnjo.
Scientists have found that bears do not excrete nitrogen from the body during the winter sleep with urine, but that it goes back into the muscles to prevent their breakdown.
Izguba mišične mase je problematična pri ljudeh, ki zaradi bolezni dolgo časa ležijo.
Muscle loss is problematic for people who are lying down for a long time due to illness.
Tudi pri astronavtih, ki mišic v breztežnostnem prostoru v vesolju ne morejo uporabljati, se te postopoma začnejo razgrajevati.
Also in astronauts who are unable to use their muscles in the weightlessness of space they gradually begin to break down.
S poznavanjem mehanizma ohranjanja mišične mase bi lahko olajšali tako življenje v vesolju kot tudi na Zemlji.
Knowing the mechanism of preserving muscle mass could make life easier in space as well as on Earth.
Slovar / Dictionary
Proteini (oziroma beljakovine) so sestavljeni iz aminokislin in imajo v telesu zelo različne vloge, med drugim so pomembni tudi pri izgradnji mišic.
Proteins (or proteins) are made up of amino acids and play very different roles in the body, including being important in muscle building.
Aminokisline so molekule iz dušika, vodika, kisika in ogljika, ki predstavljajo osnovno gradbeno enoto proteinov.
Amino acids are molecules of nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, which are the basic building blocks of proteins.
Dušik je kemijski element, ki se nahaja v ozračju in je pomemben gradnik v vseh živih bitjih. Iz telesa ga izločamo s sečnino oziroma urinom.
Nitrogen is a chemical element that is found in the atmosphere and is an important building block in all living things. It is excreted in the body with urea or urine.
STA, 21 September 2019 - A total of 120 bears and a couple of wolves have been culled so far under the emergency law, the Slovenian Forest Service has told the STA. Hunting officials have also been granted a decree for emergency wolf culling in the Julian Alps.
Until the end of August, bears have caused damage in 210 cases, up from 96 in the same period last year. Related material damage is estimated at EUR 71,400, which is again an increase compared to last year's EUR 47,700.
Meanwhile, wolves were destructive in 240 cases (116 last year), with the damage being estimated at EUR 158,000 (EUR 71,600 in 2018).
On average, wolves slaughtered 3.6 heads of small cattle in a single attack, altogether slaughtering 756 of them so far this year. They have also attacked almost 40 heads of cattle, over 40 horses and four donkeys.
The emergency law, which came into effect at the end of June, gives hunting officials the right to cull 175 bears and 11 wolves. The culling of the latter stops if the numbers are reduced by five adult wolves.
Wolf culling comes with special requirements which the Environment Ministry relaxed in August having faced pressure by farmers and hunters. Thus the culling area was extended to cover the entire area of the pack's domain.
Culling can be carried out only in areas stipulated in the emergency law, whereas to cull in other places hunters need a special decree. But even that was made more flexible in August.
The emergency law will be in place until 30 April 2020 for bear culling and until 31 January 2020 for wolf culling, which will also take place during the whole of September 2020.
The Environment Ministry is preparing a new law, with its draft proposing culling of 175 bears and 7 wolves. The Forest Service said that the new law would not hinder the emergency law culling.
Learn about photographing brown bears in Slovenia here
STA, 16 August 2019 - Amid escalating tensions over action in response to a growing number of wolf attacks on farm animals in Slovenia, 13,462 people have signed a petition urging against the planned culling of bears and wolves.
The petition, initiated by the animal rights group AniMa, was handed to Environment Minister Simon Zajc on Friday to "have the voice of reason heard when it comes to man's coexistence with bears and wolves".
The initiator of the petition, Andreja Galinec, reported with disappointment after the meeting that "we failed to prevent the culling".
"The answer we received was that the culling will not be halted," Nevenka Lukić Rojšek of AniMa said.
According to the ministry, Minster Zajc stressed at the meeting the the emergency act on culling was "addressing the burning issue of bear and wolf overpopulation and was needed at this moment to get the numbers back to a level that is also favourable for the local human population".
Zajc also announced he would inquire with his ministerial colleagues in the EU if there was a chance of one of the European countries accepting Slovenian bears and wolves.
He added the issue of overpopulation and management of bear and wolf populations needed to be removed from the realm of politics and returned to experts as soon as possible.
Danes mi je društvo AniMa izročilo peticijo proti odstrelu. Povedal sem jim, da je ta zdaj potreben! Po tem pa vztrajam: nujno mora o strokovnih vprašanjih odločati stroka in nikoli več politika. Posebej taka, ki ni za to vprašanje naredila nič, ko je imela priložnost! pic.twitter.com/rNAwnuU5C4— Simon Zajc (@zajc_si) August 16, 2019
The group had proposed that the government immediately issue a moratorium on the emergency act regulating the culling and form a task force to analyse the state of affairs and find solutions that would not be dictated by political pressure.
Urging long-term measures to preserve wildlife and protect farm animals, the group says that Slovenia needs to preserve its population of wild animals as a key to preserve the balance of nature.
"Hunters have been interfering too much in this balance, and the price is now being paid by farmers, who a while ago demanded the culling of deer because of the damage to their crops," they say.
Arguing that there are also those among "the 22,000 armed people considered hunters" who use hunting as "a profitable business and cruel entertainment at the expense of animals", they believe that hunting for deer should be restricted and much better controlled, while subsidies for farm animal production in wolf and bear habitats should be made conditional on preventive measures.
"We urge the government not to be held hostage by a small interest group that demands violent solutions now, without considering long-term consequences. Slovenia is us too who disagree with the culling of bears and wolves, and there are many of us," the petitioners say.
The number of wolf attacks on farm animals has more than doubled this year over the same period in 2018, after an NGO successfully challenged in court the government's 2018 decree ordering the removal of 175 bears and 11 wolves from the wild.
Data from the Institute for Forests show that nearly 680 animals had been attacked by the end of July, but the number has increased since as new attacks are reported almost on a daily basis.
To tackle the situation, parliament passed a law in June ordering an emergency culling, but while hunters have killed 75 bears, the complex rules have prevented them from culling any wolves yet.
Following a protest by farmers on Saturday, changes have been agreed to facilitate the culling.
There are an estimated 1,000 bears and 80 wolves in the country. Most of the wolves live in 14 packs, while some live alone.
While there have been two attacks by bears on humans so far this year, Miha Krofel of the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty has told the STA that there is no confirmed case of a wolf hurting a human in Slovenia on record.
STA, 14 August 2019 - A she-bear with a cub attacked a hunter in the woods in the municipality of Ajdovščina, south-west, on Tuesday evening while he approached it unaware of its presence, the Nova Gorica Police Department said in a release on Wednesday.
The police explained the 67-year-old hunter had sat under a tree when he noticed a 150-kilogramme bear with a cub some 10 metres away.
The bear attacked him, biting his leg and scratching his head and body when the hunter started to yell to chase it away.
He sought medical assistance at the local emergency unit on his own, but the injuries were not as severe to require hospitalisation, so he is recovering at home.
The Forest Service, one of the main national organisations in charge of wild animal populations, was notified of the attack to take required measures.
However, analysing the attack it said it was a result of an unlucky coincidence when a hunter ran into a bear with a cub.
And since the incident occurred in the forest rather than near a town, the bear was assessed not to be aggressive so it will be monitored rather than culled.
This was a second bear attack on people this year, said the Forest Service, adding a long-term average is two to three attacks a year.
The first took place at the end of June, when an 80-year-old woman was attacked by a female bear with two cubs near her village some 15 kilometres south of Ljubljana.
Hunters were then ordered to kill the bear and both of its cubs, but could not do it because activists prevented the decree from being implemented.
Once the decree expired, the Forest Service decided not to extend it because there were no other encounters with the bear.
Just two days before this year's first bear attack, parliament passed an emergency bill to reduce the bear and wolf populations by 200 and eleven, respectively.
The law was needed to end the deadlock resulting from the Administrative Court banning bear culling upon an NGO's appeal against a government decree.
This resulted in the bear populations growing rapidly, to some 1,000, whereas the wolf population is estimated at around 80.
But the emergency law has been severely criticised by farmers and hunters, as wolf and bear attacks are continuing.
Hunters have culled 75 bears under the emergency law but not a single wolf since severe restrictions apply to wolf hunting, so they risk high fines.
The rules were somewhat loosened at yesterday's high-profile meeting hosted by the environment minister.
STA, 5 August 2019 - The Jurišče village near Pivka in south-western Slovenia saw a mass wolf attack on sheep on Sunday. The Slovenian Farmers' Trade Union has announced a protest to draw attention to the issue of such attacks becoming more frequent, saying Slovenia could not cope with the current number of wild animals.
Between 15 and 20 wolves slaughtered 12 sheep during the night and injured another 10 despite protective measures, including fencing and shepherd dogs.
A number of injured sheep will have to be put down, and one of shepherd dogs was also hurt during the attack.
Without the dogs, the attack could have been even more deadly, Florjan Peternelj of the Farmers' Trade Union told the STA on Monday.
He pointed out that Slovenia could not handle so many wild animals as there are currently in the country, highlighting the recent spike in wolf and bear attacks.
According to studies, Slovenia can cope with some 100 bears and two wolf packs at most, he said, adding that any extra animals could not survive because of a lack of food.
There are some 100 wolves in Slovenia, and the attacks have been on the rise because Administrative Court orders on culling had not been carried out due to appeals by NGOs.
An emergency bill authorising hunters to shoot 175 bears and 11 wolves was passed in parliament in June. Some bears have already been culled, but no wolves.
In the wake of these attacks becoming increasingly frequent, the trade union will organise a protest in Velike Lašče, south of Ljubljana, on Saturday.
It invites, according to Peternelj, all affected farmers and people who would like to fight for a safer countryside.